Star Wars: Episode VII release date: December, 2015

Darth Vader, villain of the first Star Wars trilogy.
Darth Vader, villain of the first Star Wars trilogy.

The first of a hotly-anticipated new series of Star Wars movies will be released on December 18, 2015, the makers of the legendary sci-fi franchise said.

The announcement lays to rest reports suggesting that the film, announced last year for 2015, might have to be pushed back to the following year.

"We're very excited to share the official 2015 release date for Star Wars: Episode VII," said Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, which bought Star Wars creator George Lucas's company Lucasfilm last year.

The new movie "will not only anchor the popular holiday filmgoing season," but the 2015 release date will "also ensure our extraordinary filmmaking team has the time needed to deliver a sensational picture," he added.

Filming is due to begin next spring in Pinewood Studios outside London, added a Disney statement, adding that pre-production was "in full swing".

All of the six previous Star Wars movies - which have had pre-summer release dates in the United States - have included production in British studios, including Elstree, Shepperton, Leavesden, Ealing and Pinewood Studios.

Lucas - who launched the saga in 1977 and directed four of the six films to date - will serve as a creative consultant for at least three new films, which are expected to come out every two to three years.

The new movie will be directed by JJ Abrams (Mission: Impossible III, Star Trek) from a screenplay by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, whose credits include The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Veteran movie composer John Williams will provide the score, while Abrams, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, and Bryan Burk are listed as producers of the eagerly-awaited film.

The first Star Wars movie came out in 1977, and there have been two trilogies - three films from 1977-1983 and three prequels from 1999-2005 - while the brand has expanded into theme parks and a huge merchandising arm.

The films have earned some $4.4 billion globally over the last 35 years, and offer "a virtually limitless universe of characters and stories to drive continued feature film releases," Disney said when it bought Lucasfilm.

- AFP

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